That’s right. When the getting was good during the housing bubble politicians lived hefty tax check to hefty tax check. Now, the same idiots who didn’t know how to save a penny are showing why we should vote for only people who prove they can balance a checkbook while living on a budget.
If you are a resident of Fresno, you should be pissed. With all the money made on property taxes, you should have had enough to live through a decade long famine. Instead, get ready for massive tax hikes and a crappy local economy. Fiscal emergencies are no fun. But don’t cry yet, city officials are mitigating the losses with a job fair:
Mayor Swearengin Declares Fiscal Emergency, Delivers Plan to Deal with Budget Shortfall
Mayor Ashley Swearengin today declared a fiscal emergency for the City of Fresno and released a proposed fiscal year 2011 budget that offers a three-pronged plan to address the City’s Fresno’s $30.6 million revenue shortfall.
Mayor Swearengin said the fiscal emergency declaration, which will be presented to City Council Thursday for approval, is necessary to allow the City to use its emergency reserves to help meet the daunting budget challenges by paying for one-time expenses related to budget cuts.
The proposed $213.2 million general fund budget takes into account a 4.5 percent expected decline in resources from fiscal year 2010. The fiscal year 2011 proposed budget is 13.2 percent lower than the actual fiscal year 2008 general fund budget.
“This budget process has been one of the most demanding in the City’s history,” Mayor Swearengin said. “We’re experiencing an unprecedented decline in virtually every revenue stream at the same time that we’re seeing cost increases in areas such as retirement, health and welfare insurance, worker’s compensation, property and liability insurance and additional debt caused by unrealized investments.
“This budget proposal reflects the bleak economic situation that Fresno and cities through California have been dealing with for some time now. However, while this is a budget with pain, it’s also a budget with promise — the challenging but fiscally prudent decisions we’ve made in this budget will put us on the path to fiscal health.
“We’ve protected resources devoted to public safety, and we’ve acted in the best interest of our community by living within our means. We’re positioned to be in better shape coming out of this economic storm – we’ll be a leaner and more efficient organization, one that will be poised to take advantage of opportunities that will present themselves as the economy improves.”
In releasing the proposed budget at a City Hall news conference today, Mayor Swearengin said there are three major strategies to address the shortfall:
- Contracting the ongoing operations of the organization through departmental cuts. The proposed budget calls for the elimination of 225 positions (no layoffs of sworn police officers or firefighters), and 81 vacant positions will not be filled.
- Implementing changes in the way the city does business, including outsourcing and franchising some City services and significant streamlining of land use management, capital improvements and utility planning and operations. Mayor Swearengin has proposed franchising commercial solid waste operations, outsourcing park maintenance, and partnering with community-based organizations to operate 10 community centers.
- Using $6.5 million from the city’s emergency reserves to pay for one-time costs related to contracting the organization. Under the proposal, the reserves will be used for the Employee Retirement Incentive (ERI) program, employee leave payouts, and unemployment costs related to the contraction of the organization. Twenty-nine City employees will participate in the ERI program. The one-time costs are expected to create $2.1 million in ongoing operational savings in the future, and the City will maintain a 5 percent reserve balance, which is in line with Government Finance Officers Association standards.
As a result of those strategies, Mayor Swearengin said the budget presents a spending plan that:
- Safeguards essential services;
- Fully funds the City’s pension obligation;
- Preserves the reserve balance at 5 percent;
- Plans for the future by addressing how services are provided; and,
- Sets the stage for a sustainable budget framework into the future. Past early action on organizational contraction has resulted in significant improvement in the city’s future fiscal outlook. The outlook in November 2009 projected a fiscal year 2015 deficit of $87.9 million. The current forecast is projecting a $30.7 million deficit in fiscal year 2015, which indicates the City has made a major impact on its long-term fiscal health.
Other critical issues related to the proposed budget include:
Restructuring land use planning and development services. The City has been engaged in an extensive effort to streamline and properly align its resources and personnel to improve its land use planning and development services through the “PIPES” (Process Improvement and Permit Enhancement Strategy) program.
The proposal calls for changes in the City’s organizational structure to expand the focus of the Planning and Development Department to include long-range planning for utilities and traffic and align land use, traffic and utility planning in one department. The department will now be known as the Development and Resource Management department.
In addition, capital project management will be consolidated in the Department of Public Works instead of fragmenting resources across both the Department of Public Works and Department of Public Utilities and creating a duplication of staff.
Franchising commercial solid waste operations. The franchising to private-owned service providers presents a number of potential benefits to the city, most notably franchise fee collection opportunities to benefit the City’s General Fund and introduction of commercial solid waste service collection. The franchise fee could generate $2 million to $3 million annually to the General Fund.
Partnering with Community Based Organizations to operate community centers. To avoid closure of 10 community centers, the administration has been working with the non-profit community to identify partners who may be willing to operate the centers at the same or greater levels of service than the City currently provides. Mayor Swearengin said the city has received quality proposals from the non-profit community and is reasonably confident that the 10 centers can be matched with non-profit sponsors.
Outsourcing park maintenance. The proposed budget includes funds for PARCS to continue to keep parks open and provide maintenance services but at dramatically reduced levels. The city is now working to determine if the quality and cost of the maintenance services can be improved by contracting with local landscaping companies to maintain parks and other green spaces in designated landscape areas.
“We’re fundamentally changing the way that the City does business by focusing on essential public services – services that no other entity can provide – and making sure we’re delivering them as efficiently as possible,” Mayor Swearengin said.
In another cost-saving measure, Mayor Swearengin has proposed that the City continue its mandatory 40-hour furlough program, which would be implemented for most employees from December 27 through December 31. With the exception of those supporting critical government functions, City of Fresno offices and operations will be shut down during this period. The only exceptions to the mandatory furlough are those bargaining units that have existing contracts which prohibit layoffs or furloughs.
For eligible employees, the furlough will result in a two percent reduction in work hours. Pay deductions will be applied over a one-year period (26 pay periods) rather than as a lump sum to help minimize the financial hardship on employees and families.
Additionally, the proposed budget includes $3 million in savings in concessions from employee bargaining units.
Even with the cost-savings measures, a total of 306 positions (225 filled, 81 vacant) will be impacted. Those positions include:
- Police: 72 (56 filled, 16 vacant);
- Transportation/FAX: 56 (35 filled, 21 vacant);
- PARCS: 47 (46 filled, one vacant);
- Public Works: 31 (24 filled, 7 vacant);
- General Services: 29 (24 filled, 5 vacant);
- Fire: 16 (8 filled, 8 vacant);
- Information Systems: 16 (14 filled, 2 vacant);
- Finance: 14 (7 filled, 7 vacant);
- Development and Resource Management: 5 (5 vacant);
- Personnel: 6 (4 filled, 2 vacant);
- City Attorney’s Office: 4 (2 filled, 2 vacant);
- Public Utilities: 3 (1 filled, 2 vacant);
- Budget and Management Studies: 2 (2 vacant);
- Mayor/City Manager’s Office: 2 (1 filled, 1 vacant);
- City Clerk’s Office: 2 (2 filled);
- Retirement Office: 1 (1 filled).
The staff reductions are effective July 1, 2010.
To assist employees affected by the layoffs, the City’s Personnel Services Department will hold several meetings to provide information on community job and training resources and employee assistance counseling services and a job fair. These half-day sessions will provide employees with information on job resources services provided by Workforce Connection, unemployment insurance benefits, debt management, and public assistance. In addition, the sessions will offer information on continuation of healthcare benefits after termination, retirement, and services related to coping with change.
A job fair for the affected employees will be held in June in collaboration with Mayor Swearengin’s Personnel Staffing and Executive Recruiter’s Affinity Group. The job fair will give the employees an opportunity to learn about local employment opportunities from area staffing agencies.
A job fair also will also be held in collaboration with Workforce Connection, which offers job seekers a wide variety of training opportunities, assessments, and job-seeking resources.